2008 Aldenham Tournament

Graham Pulsford reports:

The competitors gathered together inside the courts as the rain hammered down. The clouds were dark, thunder rumbled intermittently and only the occasional bolt of lightening brightened the proceedings. But the players were in good spirits - smiles, jokes and a certain tension in the air as they waited for the tournament to begin.

The Heath tournament rules keep the fives flowing and prevent standing about between games. Each match lasts for 30 minutes, using normal game scoring, and the pair with the most points in total over the 30 minutes is the winner. If the points are tied then the match moves to sudden death and the pair to get the next point is the winner. This format allows little time to relax as all pairs play back to back matches until the tournament is over.

The draw produced some interesting pairings. The pre tournament favourites were judged to be either Neil Margerison/Phil Lyndon or Pete Scholey/Chris Austin with the potential "dark horse" pairing of Paul Kendall/Rubel Malik definitely worth a flutter. The early rounds produced some fine fives and a number of unexpected victories. Josh Rose/Joe Seelig played a highly aggressive game to win their first two matches before narrowly losing to Pete Scholey/Chris Austin in the quarter finals. The closest match again featured Pete Scholey/Chris Austin who hung on to defeat Chris Cernuschi/Andrew Fraser by a single point. The highest scoring game saw Dave Goad/Cameron Grant overwhelm Simon Turpin/Ricky Gervais by a margin of 30-8 - a match total of 38 points but no where close to the tournament record which stands at 57 points in 30 minutes!

By the time the semifinals started the rain had stopped, the sun had broken through the clouds and the temperature could be described as nicely warm. As a bonus we were joined by celebrity spectators: Lady Fredenham, Mike Hayes and Robin Rumsam - the latter pair the equivalent of "Fives Demi-Gods" to the assembled players.

In the first semi final Rubel Malik/Paul Kendall played MattWoods/Graham Pulsford in a tense and "cat and mouse" affair - best described as "fives chess at speed"! Points were at a premium and it was the consistent return of cut by Paul Kendall and safe back court play from Rubel Malik that gave them a two point advantage with less than a minute to play. Then, almost unbelievably, the outcome was reversed by a cut out of court, a missed volley and finally a magnificent winning volley into the hole by Matt Woods.

In the second semi final Neil Margerison/Phil Lyndon played Pete Scholey/Chris Austin in an open game with the emphasis very much on volleying and top court play. Neil Margerison/Phil Lyndon took an early lead and were able to draw on their experience to prevent the new pairing of Pete Scholey/Chris Austin from winning the vital points. The outcome was a narrow two point win and four exhausted players.

The final between Matt Woods/Graham Pulsford and Neil Margerison/Phil Lyndon started at pace and this probably decided the outcome. Whilst Matt Woods/Graham Pulsford felt that the gods were on their side after their semi final reprieve and volleyed everything with gusto, both Neil Margerison/Phil Lyndon were in need of recovery after their semi final and would have preferred a slower start. Matt Woods/Graham Pulsford quickly went into a four point lead, Neil Margerison/Phil Lyndon used all their experience (and energy) to level the score and then, having achieved parity, the match simply ran away from them. The player of the final was undoubtedly Matt Woods; he played some breathtaking back court fives and even popped a couple of front court volleys into the hole for good measure.

The Jim Fredenham Trophy was presented to Matt Woods/Graham Pulsford by Lady Nancy Fredenham and the 2008 winners' shirt unveiled as bright red with yellow motif. This was followed by a relaxing BBQ in bright sunshine which was much enhanced by a selection of beers and lagers kindly provided by super brewer and judge Pete Scholey. Our thanks also to Andrew Fraser for both preparing the courts and providing us with an industrial size BBQ!

Note 1

We recorded the first blood injury at the Heath tournament. Not a player but a spectator; Mike Hayes, in trying to prevent a wild volley from hitting his wife, managed instead to give her a sound thump on the nose. Medical attention was provided and Mrs Hayes was later able to enjoy the BBQ.

Note 2

We also recorded, in one of the semi finals, our first let in line with Section VIII (d) of the Rules and Laws of the Game. For those of you sufficiently interested to look up this rule the next clue is "the top of the buttress".